I moved to Virginia in desperation. After graduating college, I moved back home to my parents’ house. The thing is, they had left my hometown and moved to the coal region of Pennsylvania. We knew no one and what little jobs there were, they were full. I couldn’t get a job due to this but also because my graduation was at the start of a recession. After years of trying my best to find forms of work, I took the opportunity to leave Pennsylvania for the suburbs of Washington, DC. A friend had a spare room with my name on it so off I went with no job experience (other than retail) and no city experience. I also was lacking furniture and a car.
Living in the suburbs of DC is an experience in itself. The DC Metro area does not measure how far away you are from things by miles but by time. I lived 40 miles from Washington DC but it took two hours for me to get to work in the morning, sometimes longer depending on whether or not there was an accident on the road that would stop traffic from any forward movement.
Still, I was near a city and able to get there by bus and that was all that mattered. I took a job with a temp agency and stayed there while applying for full time work. I arrived in April and by the start of December I had my first full time job. It was amazing and I loved it all.
I moved around a bit during my time in Virginia. Five places total and three places within the first two years that I lived here. And that’s all it took, really. Two years before I grew weary of the area. For a time, I lived incredibly close to DC and my job. I would hop on and off the metro and go my merry way, I would attend events and go out on dates and I felt youthful and like I had made it in some way. But my living situation was awful and soon enough my roommate decided she didn’t want to remain in the apartment and as I couldn’t afford to live alone, I went along with it and we moved that third time, 23 miles away from DC.
With no car still, my commute remained two hours one way despite that it was half the distance as the first location I lived in because I had to rely on a bus to get me to the metro, then the metro and another bus to get me to my office. I hated it. I also was two years into the world of government contracting–something I had no experience or understanding of prior to moving to the area–and I disliked it.
All around me was politics, even in office buildings where no one was running for election. Contracting companies who hated other contracting companies who were backstabbing and lying to destroy and undermine trust with their clients was common. I learned quickly that you had to be careful of who you trusted in the office because anyone could turn their back on you for their own personal gain and that was incredibly common. It was cut throat and so many people with power were so sensitive to any form of criticism or disagreement that you were often left walking on eggshells and kissing the behinds of those above you. People were so focused on people’s feelings and personal career gains that the work they were meant to be doing was often forgotten.
The toxicity weighed on me and I began setting my sights for other locations. I had already been poking around for potential jobs in Boston when I met someone and began dating him. He incidentally became my husband a few years later but during all of our history together it was understood that without a doubt, unless something miraculous changed in our careers, we would leave the DC area once we were married because I ultimately had remained in the area for years longer than I had wanted to in the name of our relationship.
So we got married and we planned to leave in a year, but then ran out of time to find somewhere to move to. We didn’t have enough money or time off from our jobs to really devote to traveling around so we renewed our lease for another year–then found out that I was pregnant.
We looked over the numbers and realized that if we were to continue living in the DC metro area, we would have to move further away from DC to afford a location with three bedrooms. To afford three bedrooms, we both would have to be at work, but childcare was so expensive that one of our paychecks would be devoted to childcare of which the cost was nearly equal to the rent we would pay for a three bedroom apartment. There seemed no way of winning. If we worked, we would never see our child as we would have to travel four hours round trip to our jobs. We weren’t even sure if daycares stayed open that late or opened early enough for us to get to our jobs on time. My leaving my job, as the contract had been lost and the toxicity still continued, was the only option.
At two months pregnant, we drove to Ithaca, New York to visit the town and see if it was a good fit. It looked by paper to be a perfect fit for us. It had public transit! It had good schools! It had shops and things to do! It was much the same as the suburb we already lived in except instead of leaving our town for more city-like conditions, outside of Ithaca was nothing but country–something my husband and I both found wonderful. Our hearts always seemed to find their song when we would abscond to the wilderness and we felt that perhaps if we lived near a big town in the middle of the country, we would obtain that quality of life we had been yearning for. A place with things to do, places to go, activities, yet farmlands and woods just a few minutes away.
When we arrived to Ithaca, our thoughts were finalized and our decision of “this will be our home” became real. The artistic, hippie, creative-side of Ithaca reminded us of San Francisco. The farmlands reminded us of the country we loved in all the places we lived previously. There was science and plenty of it that drew my husband’s attention. It’s in the Finger Lakes region of New York, further north than where I grew up but I knew we would have four legitimate seasons rather than Virginia’s long, muggy summer followed by fake winter. It seemed perfect and so we began looking into apartments.
When our son was two months old, my husband returned to Ithaca by himself to look at apartments. He found a tiny apartment with three tiny bedrooms that was ridiculously cheap in DC standards and freshly redone inside. Finally, our son would have his own room and we would have a separate room to work in.
A few weeks later, I left my job, happy to be done with government work, but also utterly terrified. While it had been years since I had approached Virginia desperate for a job and I had developed quite a career in that time, it was still fresh enough in my mind that I could easily recall how hard it was to pay bills and how I felt my brain dying from lack of stimulation. Now I had a child and a husband, was I willing to have them go through the financial struggle that I had experienced years before? My husband kept reassuring me that things would be fine, even if we only had one income.
Beside this, I was adjusting to being a mother and having an identity crisis as my days were filled with bottles and diapers, rather than editing or writing. Now I was fully throwing myself into the whirlwind of unemployment and my job as a stay at home mother. There were less job opportunities in Ithaca, what if I couldn’t find a job when I was ready to return to work? I wanted to be both a mother and an employee but what job would there be for me if I was leaving my career made by government contracting behind?
So with worries circling in my head, we began to pack and took a few items to the apartment at the end of May. By the end of June, we would move up completely.
I write this in the final week of our time in Virginia and I still am afraid of the future. This is a big jump to something different. There’s risks involved. There always are, of course. I have no idea what the future holds but I’m cautiously excited for it. Apprehensive, too, if I’ll be honest. To hold back from the stress of the future, I haven’t bothered to look at jobs in the area since I am unable to apply to anything until we are settled. That’s my job for now, after all. We have to get to New York and my husband goes back to work so my full time job will be to unpack and watch our child. When the unpacking is done then I can begin looking for work. But until then, my job is within the home, whatever state that may be.